The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

August 25, 2009

Bubba Cromer

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Bubba Cromer.  In many ways, Bubba is Columbia’s own little personification of the gothic South.  He is our color chartreuse; our fried Moon pie.  Both our Bible salesman and our Joy Hopewell, to Bubba we are all good country people.  Bubba Cromer is what would happen if John Waters and Andy Griffith had a child.  More than anything though, I am a fan of Bubba Cromer because he is ours — and everyone knows how I feel about loving our own.

I recently wrote an article about Bubba for Lake Murray Magazine and it was published just a few days after he had found out that his beloved dog, Biscuit, who is pictured with Bubba alongside the story, was diagnosed with cancer.  We lost our golden retriever Bradie a few years back from the same diagnosis, and the crack that started in my heart that day hasn’t stopped spreading yet.  Bubba called me to thank me for the story, but had a hard time keeping his voice about him as he expressed his kind thoughts.  This is another reason that I’m a fan of Bubba’s.

The State hasn’t put the article online yet and I’m not sure that they will.  So here’s my own copy of the story, and you’ll notice that I included the website for Bubba’s films.  (It was cut from my story.)  If you don’t already have your own copy of  The Long Journey Home or The Hills Have Thighs, then now is a good time to do some shopping.

 

A Coach Cromer Production:

 Filmmaking with South Carolina Attorney – James Bubba Cromer

 

By Cynthia Boiter

 

            When considering the case of James Bubba Cromer – former South Carolina State Representative, novelist, attorney, recipient of the Governor’s Order of the Palmetto, Bigfoot aficionado and Reading Clerk for the South Carolina House of Representatives – it’s not always easy to take seriously this southern boy extraordinaire.  Goofy, tall and sweet-cheeked, with a drawl like molasses and the manners of a Baptist minister, Bubba Cromer may be the kind of award winning enigma it’s tough to take seriously.

            But seriously folks, you should.

            Over the past three years, Cromer has written, produced, directed and starred in two independent Southern cult films:  The Long Way Home:  A Bigfoot Story in 2007 and, released earlier this year, The Hills Have Thighs:  An Appalachian Comedy.    While The Long Way Home has won numerous awards including Best Narrative Feature Film at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 2007, and The Hills Have Thighshas also been received with significant acclaim, neither of these films is what one might expect from an ersatz southern politico with a law office downtown and a resume replete with offices held and awards earned. That’s because on paper Bubba seems like a typical successful southern guy.  In film though, he’s really something different.

            Bubba’s films are exercises in comedic absurdity, embracing the extremes of loony-ness and going beyond the quirky, all the while telling loosely entertaining tales.  His casts of neo-gothic characters fall one notch below freaky with everyone from snake handlers to drag queens to an Appalachian gangster with a penchant for hallucinogenic plants.  Names like Drip Drywall, Velveeta Adams, Tree-Tree Davenport and Pooter Brown dot the scripts, if scripts there be, and scenes take place, for the most part, in and about the funny side of the Blair Witch Woods.

            Suffice it to say, a Coach Cromer production is no more a typical independent film than Bubba is a typical South Carolina attorney.  

            A 1980 graduate of Dreher High School, Bubba attended Clemson University and the University of South Carolina School of Law.  As the prize for winning a best legs contest at a South Carolina bar – the drinking, not the judicial kind – Bubba was flown to Hollywood ostensibly to be cast in a California Wine Cooler Commercial.  Instead, the ever resourceful Bubba used the free trip as an opportunity to shop himself to Hollywood law offices where he was successfully hired as an associate at a Los Angeles law firm.  After two years on the west coast however, homesickness got the best of the Southern boy and, as Bubba says, he sucked up his pride, tucked his tail between his legs and hauled his sad self back home.

            The next few years would find Bubba practicing law, writing a novel, serving two terms as the only Independent member of the South Carolina General Assembly since Reconstruction, and being elected as the Reading Clerk for the South Carolina House of Representatives for ten years straight.  Interestingly enough, throughout it all, at no time did the future filmmaker even entertain the idea of making a motion picture.

            According to Cromer, it was almost four years ago when he and his parents were having cocktails at his family’s mountain get-away near Brevard, North Carolina when “yet another ridiculous Bigfoot Documentary crawled across the television screen.”

            Exasperated, Bubba declared to his father that even he “could make a better Bigfoot Movie than that!”   

            To which his dad replied, “Well son, here’s a hundred dollars that says you can’t.” 

            It was based solely on this dare that Bubba took on the initial filmmaking project from which The Long Way Home:  A Bigfoot Story sprang. 

            “I never expected that making a movie could be so much fun; so satisfying,” Bubba says.

            Influenced by innovative and favorite filmmakers like John Waters, David Lynch and Christopher Guest, Bubba plied the praise and criticism he received from both patrons and professionals on his first project into his second venture, The Hills Have Thighs, focusing more intently on quirky comedy.  The result is a mystery movie that Bubba himself describes aptly as “a piece of my warped and twisted mind.”

            Does that mean that the filmmaker-slash-attorney doesn’t take himself any more seriously than his loyal following is prone to do? 

            Actually, yes.

            “My films, I take seriously,” Bubba explains.  “But taking yourself too seriously is a dangerous road upon which I have no intention of traveling.  People who take themselves seriously are seldom very happy.”

            To that end the storyteller offers up the tale of one of his favorite moments in his short filmmaking career.  It was earlier this year at an advance screening of The Hills Have Thighs in Charleston and a hundred people were squeezed into a sixty person-sized room to see the premier.  The movie was well underway when a group of six disgruntled viewers made a commotion of haughtily leaving the theater in protest, slamming the door behind them.

            “The room was quiet for a moment after the slam, and then suddenly the remaining 94 viewers erupted in applause,” Bubba recalls.  “I knew then that I had my audience.”

            Seriously.

 

(For more information about Bubba Cromer’s films, including sneak peeks, viewing and ordering information, visit his website at http://www.thehillshavethighs.com.)

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